Classical Music in a Digital World
Music can be incredibly transformative. The right music can provide motivation to tackle the junk drawer or power through a presentation. It can create a festive atmosphere for a party or be an escape when your mind feels like it’s filled to capacity.
With the advent of streaming, it’s now easier than ever to create your own musical oasis. Many streaming services even do the heavy lifting for you by providing curated playlists for a variety of situations and musical tastes.
I combed through the classical music playlists on Spotify (there are a LOT) and selected some of my favorites for when you need to clean the house, be productive, set the mood for a dinner party or soothe an overactive mind.
Cleaning the House
Playlist pick: Jazz-Classical Crossings
What it is: Jazz musicians’ takes on classical favorites
Why it’s great: Syncopated rhythms and surprising instrumentations give this playlist enough energy to motivate you through a deep clean
Guantanameritmo - Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Elio Rodriguez Luis, performed by Cuba Percussion and Klazz Brothers
Solfeggio in C Minor - Written by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, performed by Eugen Cicero
Elise - Written by Ludwig Van Beethoven, Marcus Schinkel and Wim De Vries, performed by Marcus Schinkel Trio
The Bach Suite: Allegro - Written and performed by Oscar Peterson, based on a composition by Johann Sebastian Bach
This playlist is a beautiful example of the adage “opposites attract.” While the rule-breaking, improvisational nature of jazz might seem at odds with classical music, combining the two genres has surprisingly harmonious results. Whether you’re simply tidying up the house or embarking on a Marie Kondo-esque purge, this playlist will help the work go faster.
Also great: Bach Switched-On
Give this playlist a try if you prefer arrangements that stay truer to the original compositions. The melodic genius of Bach shines on these tracks, and creative instrumentations (think light, airy classical guitar, soothing marimba and mellow brass) provide a fresh, modern feel.
Work or Studying
Playlist pick: Intense Studying: Mixtape Edition
What it is: Classical compositions for improved focus
Why it’s great: Maintains a steady energy without being distracting
Etude No. 2 - Written and performed by Philip Glass
The Light - Written by Philip Glass, performed by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop
The Lark Ascending - Written by Ralph Vaughan Williams, performed by Andrew Davis, BBC Philharmonic, Tasmin Little
In a world full of distractions, it can be nice to have an ally to help you find your “flow.” The music in this playlist is interesting enough to drown out distractions, yet mellow enough to not be a distraction itself. I’d recommend listening at a lower volume if you’re doing work that requires deep focus.
A Dinner Party with Friends
Playlist pick: Pop Songs Based on Classical Music
What it is: Contemporary pop songs inspired by classical melodies
Why it’s great: Nice energy, wide appeal, conversation starter
Breathe Me, Sia, inspired by Metamorphosis: One, Philip Glass
Seven Nation Army, The White Stripes, inspired by Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, Anton Bruckner
They, Jem, inspired by Prelude and Fugue No. 12 in F Minor, Johann Sebastian Bach
Can’t Help Falling in Love, Elvis Presley, inspired by Plaisir d’amour, Jean-Paul- Égide Martini
This fun playlist could appeal to a wide range of listeners. The pop songs play first, followed by their classical inspirations (so it’s better to listen in order). Some of the pop songs are fairly literal versions of their classical inspirations, while others are extensive re-imaginings; a lot of them are surprises.
Also great: Pop Goes Classical
This collection of contemporary pop songs interpreted by classical musicians could also appeal to a wide range of listeners. Though die-hard fans of either genre might cringe at a few of the tracks, many of the arrangements are wonderfully imaginative.
The standout track in this playlist is a classical version of “Lose Yourself.” Yes, the one by Eminem. I honestly expected to laugh, but as soon as I listened to it, it became one of my favorites. Vocal cadences can be difficult to translate into instrumental arrangements, and David Garrett and John Haywood have done this expertly. The track is, in a word, epic.
Playlist pick: Short & Sweet: Classical Miniatures
What it is: A collection of 3-minute-or-less classical compositions
Why it’s great: The tracks are calming, yet short enough for when you can’t focus on anything
Solfeggio No. 1 in C Minor - written by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, performed by Ana-Marija Markovina
Kreisler: Schön Rosmarin - Written by Fritz Kreisler, performed by Itzhak Perlman
Lieder ohne Worte, Op. 62: No. 6 Andante Grazioso in A - “Spring Song” - Written by Felix Mendelssohn, performed by Daniel Barenboim
Salut d’amour, Op. 12 - Written by Edward Elgar, performed by Anne Akiko Meyers, Sandra Rivers
“Monkey Mind” is a Buddhist term for a distracted state of mind caused by restless, unwanted thoughts. You might have experienced Monkey Mind if you’ve ever:
Lied awake at night going through a mental play-by-play of every embarrassing thing you’ve ever done
Found yourself at the end of an Internet rabbit hole and forgotten what you even meant to look up in the first place, or
Had a barrage of random thoughts pop up when you’re trying to focus in a meeting
While I can’t claim that this playlist will completely get rid of restless thoughts, the short tracks and lively melodies will at least help get your mind off them.
I hope this article inspires you to explore the many ways music can enhance your life and help you “set the scene” for finally cleaning out that closet, pushing through a tough project, spending time with friends, or just taking a break from the noise of modern life. Whether you have a subscription to a streaming service, make your own playlists, prefer CDs or records, or attend live shows, there are plenty of resources available to help you find music you love.